The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates — A Success Story

The Pirates finished their season tonight, and that season was a success. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates finished their season tonight, and that season was a success. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Success is a subjective term. It can have many meanings, depending on what you consider “successful”. When it comes to baseball, you can use different milestones to mark success. One milestone I’ve never liked is the idea that the only successful team is the one that wins the World Series.

The goal for every team is to win the World Series, and only one team can win each year. But other teams can have a successful season without winning it all. And I think the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates are one of those teams.

I have zero interest in recapping the final game of the year. The Pirates lost 6-1, and they were eliminated in Game 5 of the NLDS. Instead, let’s focus on that last part.

The Pirates were eliminated from the playoffs. The playoffs. And it wasn’t the Wild Card, because they won that in one of the best Pirates games arguably since 1979. They were eliminated in the NLDS, and it took five games. They were eliminated by one of the best pitchers in the league, and the team with the best record. And this series was close. The 6-1 score in the end doesn’t show that, but the Pirates weren’t far off from being a team that could beat the Cardinals and advance.

Prior to the season, a lot of people were questioning whether the Pirates would even have a winning season. Very few were predicting playoffs, and they would have probably been laughed at. If you would have told any Pirates fan that the team would win 94 games, beat the Reds in the Wild Card game at PNC Park, and get eliminated in Game 5 of the NLDS by Adam Wainwright, they would have taken it.

The bad part about not winning the World Series is that a successful season ends on a bad note. So rather than focus on that loss, let’s focus on more of what made this season amazing.

**The Pirates won 94 games.

**They won the Wild Card game.

**They made it to Game 5 of the NLDS.

**During the entire season, the Pirates never lost more than four games in a row. The big losing streak was always a killer for previous teams, but this team managed to bounce back each time.

**Andrew McCutchen had another MVP-like season, and will probably win the NL MVP award.

**Pedro Alvarez topped 30 home runs for the second year in a row.

**The Pirates arguably had the best free agent pitcher (Francisco Liriano) and best free agent position player (Russell Martin).

**The team got a look at their future ace, Gerrit Cole, and watched him start to turn into an ace at the end of the season.

**The losing streak ended.

**Starling Marte had a strong first full season in the pros. He had a 4.6 WAR. By comparison, Andrew McCutchen had a 3.5 WAR in his first full season.

**The Pirates used 12 starting pitchers. Eight of those pitchers had an ERA of 3.59 or better. Two of the remaining pitchers only made one start.

**The usage of defensive shifts showed the ability to think outside the box, and successfully execute a plan that could give the team an edge over the competition.

**All of the memorable games or series throughout the year (with my personal favorite being the series against the Cardinals where they took four out of five around the trade deadline).

**The best part of all? We can talk about a lot of great things that happened this year, and not even get to players in the minors who had zero impact on the MLB squad. And it’s not like there weren’t any good stories in the minors. There were a lot of great stories. But for once those aren’t the only stories.

**OK, maybe tied for best of all: the minor league system is good, this team will mostly return next year, and should see some internal improvements from the minors. Combine that with money to spend over the off-season, and there’s no reason why next year shouldn’t also be a success. But that’s another article.

I probably missed some great moments from the 2013 season. Or perhaps there’s a specific game or series that you want to highlight. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/nate.james.125 Nate James

    To every Bucco fan out there,

    This was one of the best years of my life. I got to experience October baseball for the first time at PNC Park (At the wildcard game, best sporting event I have ever gone too!), and saw the most passionate fans get up and put on their jerseys again. I am so proud of my city and all that comes with being a Pirate fan. I feel so heartbroken with the way it ended, but no one can take away the fact that we are one of the best teams in MLB. We might not have captured a series win, but we captured respect from our peers. This is definitely going to be a common occurrence for us in the postseason. We are on the way to the top! #buccos2013

  • hoffmanpaul

    Tim, I just want to thank you for all your time and effort put into this incredible season. Our Bucs were just amazing this year. I go on your site at least once a day and I enjoy reading all your articles. I hope your site continue to grows. Thanks again for everything. We ALL owe you so much! Can not wait for the 2014 season to begin! LETS GO BUCS!

  • CalipariFan506

    My own definition for success with the 2013 Pirates was to finish through the regular season without a meltdown or collapse. They passed my personal test with flying colors. I went through anxiety, panic, fear and lots of other crazy feelings every time they lost a few in a row. They proved me wrong and it was very enjoyable despite my fears haha.

  • skliesen

    Truthfully, after last season’s collapse and the 1-5 start, I expected to spend the summer counting down the days for football to start.

    However, this team demonstrated the type of resolve not seen in Pittsburgh for a generation. And like the ’90 Bucs, it appears they’re here to stay for a while.

    My favorite series was undoubtedly the 5-gamer vs StL. With acknowledgments to the home and home with TX and the West Coast swing vs Angels/Mariners.

    The season may have started and ended with a thud, but the middle sure was glorious!

    Thanks for the memories 2013 Bucs!

  • BallHeadWonder

    Favorite part of the season was FINALLY beating up on Milwaukee!!! They have Dominated us for over 5 years and now we finally get back at them and hopefully work on year 2 of 5 and get back at them!!

  • emjayinTN

    More than we ever expected – about 2 years earlier than most of us hoped. Some very shrewd dealing during the off-season for Russell Martin, Jennmar Gomez, and Francisco Liriano brought this team together and filled some gaping holes.

    Got much more than expected out of Starling Marte, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Mark Melancon, and Jordy Mercer without losing anything of any value. The Pirate Prospects machine kept turning out talent from the minors and we now have at least 2 more newbies heading to PNC in June 2014 – Gregory Polanco, and Jameson Taillon, with Nick Kingham, and Tyler Glasnow moving fast, we could be seeing an entirely new Rotation as early as June 2015.

    And congratulations Tim because I am seeing more and more new names tuning in and becoming active.